Water crisis: a case study of Jabalpur

  • 30/05/2001

Water crisis: a case study of Jabalpur Sources once considered renewable are diminishing rapidly. Water is one element which, is declining in the face of human onslaught. India's historic billionth baby has not led the government to take concrete measures to control this rapid population growth. Jabalpur is located in the heart of Madhya Pradesh and lies 15 kilometres from river Narmada. Its present population is 2 million. Two decades back it was 700,000. Increasing population is making summers seem like a nightmare. Though, in some areas of the city water supply is irregular throughout the year.

Water shortage leads to long queues and street squabbles with people's patience running out. Once known as the city of lakes, the water bodies have today lost their lust. Built by our forefathers for serving daily needs and for recharging groundwater the lakes are dying. Concrete buildings and waste material have taken the place of the shrinking water bodies. Sports and business complexes are being planned in place of the retreating water bodies, without a passing thought to the consequences on environment.

Scarcity of water has led to the digging of tubewells in every plot of the newly-constructed colonies. This has further aggravated the problem with the fall of the watertable. The lakes need to be cleaned and desilted regularly. If a fraction of funds collected during festive occasions, are diverted for maintaining these waterbodies by local committees then the wells of that locality could get recharged.
Narmada, rain and groundwater are the three major sources of water for Jabalpur. The water flow in Narmada is because of rains in the upper reaches of Jabalpur. This rainwater if tapped, by every household can end the water crisis. If people build large underground water storage tanks, to harvest rainwater it could also recharge groundwater. If someone using groundwater does not recharge it, he must be made liable to be punished by the municipality or water board.

Other than the Narmada the other water supplied is from by two reservoirs. Earlier most of the rain that fell recharged groundwater aquifers because of dense green cover which, acted as a barrier for surface runoff. Now, with 70 per cent of the forest cover in Khandari and 30 per cent of forest cover in Pariyat catchment removed the available reservoirs are getting silted up. Unfortunately, there is no official policy to respond to the crisis.

Water management demands sincere planning and coordinated efforts. There is a need for formation of separate water bodies independent of government interference, manned by professionals appointed for a contractual basis and paid according to work efficiency. A ban on tubewells can make a vital difference to groundwater recharge.

Licenses need to be made compulsory for every well digger. The imposition of high water charges could be a viable solution for discouraging the misuse of water. Water charges need to be imposed on volumetric use of water with the metering of all water supply points. In all government gardens use of sprinkler, drip and greenhouses should be compulsorily implemented which could be a good example for the public. During the monsoon Narmada water pipeline could be used for recharging ponds in the city. A ban needs to be imposed on building activities in lakes.

Rooftop water harvesting should be made essential, registration of colonies should not occur without the water harvesting system. Forestation should be promoted on a war footing throughout the state. High water consuming trees like the Eucalyptus should be avoided. Polluted water from industrial areas should be safely disposed in such a way that it may not pollute the river downstream.

The writer is a scientist in Water Management Research Institute of Gujarat agricultural university